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Tender is the Night, like other Fitzgerald books, concentrates on the theme of how money corrupts, destroying wealthy individuals who cannot seem to focus their lives. The main characters of the novel bumble from one playground to the next, tearing up lives as they go. Amazingly, it is the Hollywood starlet, Rosemary, who is the most well adjusted character, while Dick, the most promising of the characters, is ruined by money, position, and power. Neither Dick nor Rosemary comes from the upper class, like Nicole and Baby Warren, and long to climb the social ladder. Characters like the McKiscos and the Norths are also social climbers, greedy and stupid in their efforts. In their wealth, both Abe North and Dick Diver succumb to alcohol and oblivion.
Ironically, as a psychiatrist, Dr. Dick Diver is critical of the American rich. He says that he is tired of fixing the mistakes of stupid wealthy parents, who destroy their children and then pay dearly to have them fixed. The only patient Dick feels much sympathy or respect for is a female artist with a skin disease. She dies, but he is convinced that a secret has died with her, probably related to her wealthy upbringing. It is clear that Fitzgerald is respectful of the creative mind and the emotional state of artists, and disrespectful of silly rich people. Ironically, he becomes one himself.
Because of the unevenness of Tender is the Night, both the mood and tone significantly fluctuate. For the most part, however, the mood of the book is depressing and uncomfortable, sometimes bordering on being totally dark, as Dick Diver, a promising and bright psychiatrist, destroys his life. In his critical tone towards Dick, Fitzgerald becomes moralistic and sometimes overly dramatic.